There hasn't been this much excitement around Rams nation since the team rattled off a string of three victories to turn an ugly season into a .500 effort. All this because of the news that the Rams have hired Al Saunders to take over the offense.
And that's reason enough. We've said it here time and time again, the offense broke the team's back this season. The deeper Linehan's involvement in the offense, the more second halves of games sunk us. There's really no need for a litany of plays. We know. The memories of a 3-13 season are burned into our consciousness.
Here's an early assessment of the Rams offense from Saunders. The good news: the main cogs are already in place. Which we already knew, and knew last season. Check out ViperLjs' diary gong over the stats for Saunders. They speak for themselves. I'm particularly intrigued by his time with the Chiefs. They managed to do a lot with that offense, making Priest Holmes the centerpiece. That's repeatable given the talent we've got in Steven Jackson...and another clue that the Rams are likely to resign him. More interesting to me, is what Saunders did with the Chiefs passing game during those years. TE Tony Gonzalez was the team's leading receiver in 2003, the seasons they went 13-3. Taking nothing away from Tony Gonzalez, the Rams, with Torry Holt and Drew Bennett, would seem to be in a much better place than the Chiefs were with their receiving corps during Saunders tenure there. Torry Holt versus Eddie Kennison? Exactly.
Alas, it's not all bread and roses for the offense. From the same News-Democrat story linked above, Saunders points to concerns about the o-line.
Obviously. I'd say that's as good of an indication as we're likely to get that the Rams will do something, either via free agency or the draft or both, to upgrade the line.
A few people have already expressed this, but it's worth throwing out there again. Does the Saunders hiring make Bruce more likely to stay in St. Louis AND restructure his contract that would otherwise entail a $5 million salary cap hit this season? I would think so, but we'll have to wait and see.
Here are the notes from Saunders' presser yesterday. Interesting insight into Linehan's thinking with this move:
It's worth noting, that Saunders isn't just another Linehan crony. In fact, he's not really a Linehan crony at all, at least in the mold of cronies we're used to seeing. It's a positive sign that Linehan reached out to someone other than an old coaching chum to take over the offense and let him hone in on the head coaching duties. Of course, did he really have any other choice? It was either that or start calling some D1 programs about assistant positions.
Pro Football Weekly has some insight on Linehan's decision:
Once we knew that the Rams would not be replacing the head coach, we, the fans, needed to see some big changes made elsewhere to even have the slightest hope for the Rams to win more than 3 games next season. This move is exactly what we needed to see.
As a fan, it's too bad that the offseasons have provided the most cause for excitement. But at least now there's reason to believe that this big offseason news is only first of brighter days ahead.